Quite frankly, I used to think annual refresher training was worthless.
Conducting these workshops was part of my job years ago when I was the Director of Training for Ace Parking, a parking management company. The training was a requirement written into the management contract for many of our locations.
My first impression was the training was done just to make our clients feel good. (In parking, the clients are the companies that actually own the parking facilities such as hotels, office buildings, stadiums, airports, and stand-alone parking garages and hire a management company like Ace.)
After all, what good could a once annual training do?
I quickly noticed something important. The parking managers who readily scheduled the training with me had higher customer service levels than the few managers who didn't do the annual refresher.
Was it because of the training?
The real answer was it was because of the training and everything else those managers did throughout the year to elevate service at their locations. The annual refresher was part of a larger system.
Here's why you really need annual refresher training for your team, when you should do it, and how you can get it done.
Why You Need Refresher Training
Let's start with a quick definition. Annual refresher training typically has these qualities:
- Short duration (my typical program is two hours)
- Focus on fundamental customer service skills
- May introduce a new concept or two
So why should your employees attend? Three reasons:
First, it helps your team re-focus on the basics. It's easy to get caught up in day-to-day work. People might even develop some bad habits. Refresher training gets everyone back on the same page.
Second, it sets the stage for the year or season ahead. This is a perfect time to introduce a new customer service initiative. You can also help employees make a connection between customer service and your strategic plan.
Third, it's fun. Good refresher training should be something employees look forward to. I've had many managers position this training as recognition for employees. (It should never be seen as a punishment for poor service.)
Back to my experience at Ace Parking. I quickly learned that managers whose employees were great at service were eager to schedule refresher training for all of these reasons.
They also saw the training as an integral part of everything they did to support a service culture on a daily, weekly, and monthly basis. That was the real secret -- the refresher training was just one piece of the whole puzzle.
When To Conduct Refresher Training
There are a few considerations for scheduling annual refresher training.
- Event-based: Schedule it right before a busy season or a major new initiatives.
- Volume-based: Schedule the training for a slow period in your normal business cycle.
- Plan-based: Scheduled at the start of your fiscal year to coincide with a new annual plan.
From a practical standpoint, you may need to juggle some schedules to make sure that work gets done while employees are attending training. Many of my clients schedule multiple sessions so they can maintain operational coverage.
How to Conduct Refresher Training
Start with a theme. What is the one thing you want the team to focus on for the next year? Whatever it is, make sure it's connected to your customer service vision.
Next, identify a source for the training. There are options available for all budgets.
If your company has the resources, consider bringing in a professional speaker. This can really charge up the team and show everyone you care deeply about service.
For more limited budgets, you can use training videos like my courses on lynda.com. You may have a lynda.com account already, which means there's no cost to use these videos. If you don't have an account, you can get a 10-day trial just in time for your training.
There are even good options for teams with no training budget at all.
- Use this free workbook: 10 Training Activities to Supercharge Your Team.
- Build your own program using learning objectives and this technique
- Use the event to write or re-rewrite your customer service vision
You can also get more low and no-cost training ideas from Halelly Azulay's fabulous book, Employee Development on a Shoestring.
Finally, don't forget to prepare your team for training. Here's a handy planner to help make sure everything is ready to go.